‘Communities in Britain aren’t used to gun culture’. However, what is gun culture? Although gun crime is increasing, is it the so-called glamorous ‘culture’ that is fuelling it? On the other hand, is it the society we live in and our failure to instil morals and principles in our children?
In this essay I am going to compare how a tabloid and the website of a broadsheet presents and reports this issue. I shall be looking at the different presentational devices and visual images used, language and the structure and context of the material.
Firstly, the difference in media is immediately clear. The Mirror, a tabloid paper, has a big picture of Ice Cube the rap artist spread across two pages as its main focal point with the heading ‘Don’t let music take the rap’. In contrast, the Guardian’s website has very little in the way of pictures and has the text as the main focal point with a small heading. As this is a broadsheet, I would expect it to be much the same in the actual paper. On the other hand, both papers have used puns in their headings. The Mirror uses ‘Don’t let music take the rap’ and the Guardian uses ‘Bullet points’.
Both headlines are used for the same reason- to catch the reader’s attention and to inform the reader what the article is about. Furthermore, in the tabloid paper the picture of Ice Cube holding a gun promoting his film is very similar to the one of Trevor Nelson in the main article, since they are both wearing black leather jackets and black hats. Implying that both of them are involved in the same sort of lifestyle. The Guardian does not use such presentational devices to make the article more appealing to the reader but it does have a small picture with the words ‘Gun violence in Britain’ on a red back ground suggesting blood.
Both papers have a number of articles relating to the main subject but have them displayed in very different ways. The Mirror has a number of small columns relating to the main editorial, which are spread around the outside of the two pages, Dealing with various aspects of gun culture, so as to hold the readers attention the info has been broken down into digestible ‘bites’. On the other hand, it may distract the reader’s attention from the main article. However, the Guardian has a number of hyperlinks to related articles so there are no other actual pieces on the same page as the ‘Bullet points’ article. This once again shows the difference in media and how the two papers are able to present their articles.
At the bottom of the main article in the Mirror there is a section asking the public to write in if gang life has affected them. Here the Mirror is inviting readership participation, much as TV shows such as Jerry Springer and Oprah, this invites an on going discussion, which may provide the paper with a good story. They are also probably expecting sensationalist replies. The Guardian does not use this since its editorship probably thinks its readers have the confidence to write in anyway.
Since the presentation of the two articles is so different and the fact that one paper is a tabloid and the other is a broadsheet, you would expect the content of the two articles to be very different.
First of all, the difference in paragraph sizes is immediately clear. The Trevor Nelson piece in the Mirror is mostly single sentence paragraphs. On the other hand, the paragraphs in the Guardian are slightly longer with three to four
Both articles are mainly opinion and have little or no facts in them; this is a sentence from the Mirror’s article.
‘All a kid has to do to prove he is the baddest boy in the area is to get a rumour going he’s got a gun.’
This is a sentence from the Guardian’s piece.
‘Music is in everybody’s house, in everybody’s car, but does not dictate peoples morals.’
Furthermore, the language in both articles is quite informal; ‘…if you pardon the pun, would be not to give them any ammunition.’ since the Guardian is a broadsheet, a more formal approach to the subject would have been expected. Moreover, the difference in the level of vocabulary used by both papers is little or none; this is an extract from The Guardian:
‘…It is a social problem that has lots of contributing factors. To blame gun violence on music is to distort and oversimplify the problem.’
In contrast, here is a sentence from the Mirror:
‘Nelson is adamant that it is wrong to blame gun crime and violence on music and says the fault lies in the heart of society.’
Here you can see that the level of vocabulary is the same.
Although, both papers use people in the music industry to write their articles the way two papers choose to do this is very different. The Mirror does this by getting a reporter to interview Trevor Nelson and then write an article expressing his views. On the other hand, The Guardian gets the Programmes editor at 1xtra to write his own article expressing his views this enables him to speak directly to the reader rather than through the filter of a reporter. Moreover, the way the two pieces are structured is very different; The ‘Bullet points’ article starts of by talking about how gun crime has got worse, ‘gun violence has undoubtedly got worse’.
Then goes on to discussing the reasons why people feel the need to carry guns, and then it blames the media for the way they portray urban musicians, ‘Megaman visits a hospital, but that’s not newsworthy.’ Finally, the writer chooses to end the piece talking about how most popular urban artists don’t actually talk about guns and violence in their songs, ‘…the biggest selling urban acts today… are basically singing love songs.’ In contrast, the Trevor Nelson article in the Mirror begins by talking about how music is not to blame for gun crime and violence but society, ‘…the fault lies at the heart of society.’ Then the article goes on to talk about how what is happening with urban music is no different to football hooliganism:
‘But this is no different to the hooligan days when yobs used football as vehicle for their aggression.’
Lastly, the article ends talking about Trevor Nelson’s first hand experience of gun crime at a club he was DJ-ing at.
‘I was devastated. To know someone got killed at a party where I was DJ-ing…’
I think the Trevor Nelson article makes its points most effectively it is better structured and is well thought out. Moreover, Nelson has more credibility because he has given an MBE for bringing urban music to the UK, whereas Wilberforce is less well known. On the other hand, due to the readership of both papers it is not very lightly that the readers will know who either Nelson or willberforce are. The ‘Bullet Points’ article in the Guardian did not have a main point on why not to blame music, it seemed to push the blame to the media. In addition, it said that the most popular urban artists sing love songs, in spite of the fact that Eminem is one of the biggest selling urban acts and one of the most controversial due to the nature of his lyrics. Furthermore, in this piece there are a number of questions asked by the writer that are left unanswered:
‘If there were no records glorifying guns, would they still feel they needed to carry a gun?’
‘Where do the influences on peoples behaviour begin and end?’
In conclusion, the way in which the two papers covered the issue was very different from each other, although surprisingly they did have their similarities in vocabulary and language. Moreover, there were clearly some advantages and disadvantages in the medium chosen to report the subject, such as; for the Guardian, the internet enabled them to use a number of hyperlinks to satellite article but the reader would have to know the web address to get to their site first. In contrast the Mirror could guarantee that the reader would at least glance at each article whether they chose to read it or not but because they were using paper they had a limited amount of space available for articles.